Image: Longstone Lighthouse, Longstone Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200 sec, ISO 800, hand-held
We made it back to the United States late last night after a whirlwind trip, exhausted after the past two weeks. The trip back was long and thankfully uneventful, and I was able to sort through a few photos. For 6 days last week, we made a visit to the Farne Islands off the northeastern coast of England.
Each morning around 9:30am, we boarded a boat with all our camera gear and lunches and took a tour around the Farne Islands. It took the boat a half hour to get out to the islands, and another 30-45 minutes as the pilot guided us around several of the islands, starting with Longstone Island and Lighthouse, as shown above in the top photo.
The Farne Islands are most known for the large number of seabirds living on the various islands. Over 100,000 birds make these islands home and breed among the rocks and grassy burrows, including 23 species of seabirds and over 37,000 breeding pairs of puffins! We spent our time on two of the islands, Staple Island and Inner Farne Island.
Image: Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 38 mm, f/16, 1/250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held
During the initial tour each day, we visited a colony of Atlantic Grey seals. This colony is supposedly the 3rd largest in England and includes over 8,000 seals! We spotted males and females as well as some young pups, as you can see by the black one hiding behind his momma below.
Image: Female Atlantic Grey Seal and pup on one of the Farne Islands, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 320 mm, f/8.0, 1/1250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held
We spent 10 minutes each day observing the seals as they laid along the shore or swam in the waters. The momma seal soon got bored with her visitors and laid back down in the sun. 🙂
Image: Female Atlantic Grey Seal on one of the Farne Islands, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 480 mm, f/8.0, 1/1250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held
For 5 of the 6 days, we had bright sunny weather, a bad sign for bird photography in the middle of the day but great for sparkling blue water. Locals we met on the island said that this was the longest stretch of sunny weather since 1976!!! The sun brought us warm weather and great opportunities for scenic shots.
Image: Our boat waiting in the sea near Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/6.3, 1/5000 sec, ISO 640, hand-held
Staple Island, our morning island, had a great rocky cliff and wall that provided great nesting locations for the Common Murre and various gulls. As we passed by these cliffs in the boat, we could see and hear thousands of murres as they were nesting, fighting, copulating and tending to their chicks.
Image: Wall of Common Murres on Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/8.0, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held
At the edges of Staple Island, there were rock formations known as the Pinnacles that made for great scenes as well as home to the murres and gulls.
Image: Common Murres on Staple Island, England. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 24 mm, f/16, 1/160 sec, ISO 400, hand-held
After viewing the islands from the boat, we were given 2-2.5 hours on each island to photograph the birds. There was a path roped off around the center of Staple island to allow us to observe the birds without disturbing their nesting grounds. In the image below, the rocky cliffs were full of Common Murres, but Razorbills and European Shags also nested in this area.
Image: Common Murres, Razorbills and European Shags on Staple Island, England. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 24 mm, f/16, 1/250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held
To hear the sounds of these birds and to see the level of activity, please click on the video below:
Some areas in the center of the island were more grassy than others, allowing for puffin to dig burrows, as seen in the image below on the left .
Image: Common Murres, Razorbills and European Shags on Staple Island, England. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 35 mm, f/16, 1/250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held
Our afternoons included a visit to Inner Farne Island from 1:15-3:45pm each day. Arctic Terns nested along the docks, forcing us to wear hats to cover our heads as we walked up the path. If you came too close to a nest, the terns reminded you by poking your head as they flew overhead. Sometimes, even the width of the path was too narrow to provide safe passage, so we all got daily pokes. Occasionally, the whole flock of terns flew up into the sky and I was able to capture this sight once.
Image: Arctic Tern colony in flight on Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held
I typically made a visit to one of the rocky ledges were the puffins like to relax or stand before flying out to sea.
Image: Puffin colony on Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 70 mm, f/16, 1/250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held
As I sort through many thousands of photos, I’ll try to post them over the next several weeks. Each species we encountered was special in its own way. There were many tender moments between breeding pairs as well as demonstrations of love for chicks. It was sad to say good-bye to all the participants on Artie’s IPT, but I was impressed by all of their skills and amazing photography.
More information on Farne Islands: Farne Islands